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There's something wonderful about the first warm rain of the season. Stepping outside yesterday morning I smelled it right away - the smell of rain - petrichor.
Petrichor, a greek word, is a pleasant smell that results from the first rain after a long dry spell. That earthy fragrance is actually an oily essence emitted from rocks or soils that have been kissed by airborne organic matter. The resulting perfume triggers emotions and perhaps even a little romance.
"When decomposed organic material is blown airborne from dry soil," PBS' Joe Hanson explains, "it lands on dirt and rock where it's joined by minerals. And the whole mixture is cooked in this magical medley of molecules. Falling raindrops then send those chemicals airborne, right into your nostalgic nostrils." Watch his fun, informative video here.
That first spring rain coaxes life from the earth, and it compels me to forage on. Crocuses blooming in yellows and purples, grasses beginning to green, daffodils and perennials emerging from their sleep.
I move aside a few leaves and am greeted with the early buds of a hellebore like the ones shown above freshly captured by our greenhouse manager, Debbie Polansky. Hellebores, known commonly as Lenten Rose, are happiest in the shade, in a woodland garden, and thankfully the deer don't have a fondness for them like I do.
My penchant for these delicate roses of spring continues to grow, as does my collection. This year I have my eye on a couple new varieties that we'll be carrying here at BGC, both from the Winter Thriller series: 'Wedding Ruffles' is a pure white double.
And 'Peppermint Ruffles' - those double pink petals - can you say gorgeous?
and sweet, lovely hellebores
Every year, I fall in love with them all over again.
Maybe its the rain :)
- Tracy Hankwitz
BGC Store Manager
images from Hoffie Nursery
So we should know by now that kale is a super food, right?. It's good for us. It's loaded with antioxidants, iron, calcium, and vitamin C. Kale is kale is kale, right? Of course it isn't!
There is dwarf blue curled, Portuguese, scarlet, Italian lacinato, triple-curled Dutch Darkibor, Dinosaur, Black Magic, and Tuscan Baby Kale. And those are just the ones we have at BGC this year! There are more!
Kale has a distinct flavor and texture. If you can't get past the roughness of the curled-leaf varieties, try the Tuscan Baby Leaf kale. It's tender, sweet, and has a much more mild flavor than other kales.
I have found two ways that I enjoy eating this leafy green: one is in a smoothie blended with frozen berries, a banana, and water - even my kids eat it this way!
The second is in this recipe. It's super easy and has really great flavor.
Shredded Tuscan Kale, Tomato and Avocado Salad
from Fresh & Fast Vegetarian by Marie Simmons
1 small bunch Tuscan (lacinato) kale, washed and dried
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 ripe tomato, diced
1/2 c. diced red onion
1 tsp. finely chopped seeded jalapeno pepper
1 small garlic clove
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. course salt
1. To prepare the kale, cut along both sides of the stem of each leaf. Discard the stems. Gather a bunch of the long kale leaves together and slice into thin crosswise slices. You should have 4 to 6 cups lightly packed.
2. Combine the kale, lime juice, oil and salt in a large bowl. Rub the ingredients together with your hands (as though giving the kale a massage) until the leaves wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.
3. To make the salsa: Combine the avocado, tomato, red onion, jalapeno, garlic, lime juice, oil and salt and stir to blend.
4. Add the salsa to the kale and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.
How do you eat your kale?
Burlington Garden Center
As you look outside and view a foot or more of snow on the ground, it seems impossible that spring will actually arrive next month. However, the promise of spring is right around the corner, and it is not too early to start thinking of attracting hummingbirds and orioles to your backyard.
Starting in March, the ruby-throated hummingbirds begin to make their way north again from Mexico and Central America. You can follow their migration progress with weekly updates posted on Journey North at http://www.learner.org/jnorth/ or on their Facebook page. This site also tracks the migration of other bird and animal species, including orioles, common loons, gray whales and monarch butterflies. They also monitor and provide seasonal data on tulips and “ice out” on northern lakes.
So even if the landscape is still looking bleak in your neck of the woods, you can log on to Journey North and see what is happening in other parts of the country. Timing is one of the most important aspects to successfully attracting hummingbirds and orioles each spring. Following their progression will help you be better prepared with the appropriate food and feeders when they start “winging” their way to your neighborhood.
For additional information on attracting hummingbirds and orioles, join me as I host a seminar on Saturday, February 21st at 10:00am at Burlington Garden Center. RSVP at 262.763.2153 or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Belinda Abendschein
(You can follow Belinda on her personal birding blog here.)
It started with an invitation to see her dahlias. What I discovered was a beautiful garden that reflected the soul of its owner.
Come with me as we tour the autumn garden of Sandra Hopkinson located on the wooded outskirts of Burlington, WI.
Sandra is a huge Beverly Sills fan. This statue takes center stage when the surrounding 'Beverly Sills' iris are in bloom. Her husband even fashioned musical notes into the gate in the background.
It's about this time of year that we need something to get us through the rest of winter. Looking through seed catalogs dreaming of the approaching growing season helps, but what if you want to grow something NOW?
Forcing spring bulbs is an easy cure for that gardening itch. It's especially simple to coax hyacinth's fragrant blossoms to make an early appearance.
These hyacinth bulbs have been chilled and are ready for forcing.
Choose your vessel. Hyacinths can be forced in water, so choose a vessel that has no drainage. We love the versatility of these Weck canning jars. Each will hold 3 hyacinth bulbs.
You'll need small stones and preserved reindeer moss.
Begin with a layer of small stones. Place bulbs on top of the stones. Tuck bright green reindeer moss between the bulbs for spring color. Add enough water to touch the bottom of the bulbs to encourage root growth. Check water level daily.
Place in a warm bright spot and watch them grow!
This Christmas give a growing gift. Amaryllis bulbs are easy to pot and care for. They seem to grow daily as they send up flower talks that burst into several trumpet-like blossoms.
Begin by soaking the roots in warm water for 30 minutes.
Choose a pot that is slightly larger than the bulb. We used a 6" pot.
A coffee filter placed over the drainage hole will hold soil but allow water to drain.
Fill the pot half way with potting soil. We used Baccto Lite.
Place the bulb on top of the soil. More soil may need to be added so the top of the bulb is slightly higher than the top of the pot. Fill soil in around the bulb up to it's shoulders. Water it in.
Add decorative moss and pine cones for holiday flair.
As the flower stalks grow, they may need help staying upright. We added curly willow branches for stylish support.
Place in a bright warm spot. Water as needed to keep soil moist. You'll have beautiful blossoms in 6-10 weeks.
The last days of October
the last days of Autumn
slipping by too quickly
I decided to go for a walk today and seek the beauty that still remains, and capture glorious colors of the season
Take a walk before fall slips away
We'd love to see what you find.
- Tracy Hankwitz
BGC Store Manager
Burgundy foliage in the garden can be used most effectively when paired with the right hues. First, be mindful of your backdrop. Dark leaves don't show up on dark backgrounds. They just don't, so don't put them there. If you have a dark-red brick house, don't plant a ninebark against it. The burgundy leaves of the ninebark will show off much better against white or gray.
My favorite way to use burgundy foliage is to pair it with blue - blue hostas in shade, blue grasses and blue evergreens in sunny spots. Below left is 'Little Devil' Ninebark (Physocarpus opifolius) and 'Shining Sensation' Weigela (right) with 'Prairie Sky' switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the middle' and 'Northwind' switchgrass. (shown in next collage).
Add the blush flower heads of Hydrangea 'Quick Fire' or 'Limelight' (center), and the blue-green needles of a Juniper (left) and you have the perfect recipe for a sunny, low-maintenance shrub border.
- Tracy Hankwitz, BGC Store Manager
Not the blades and needles that first may come to mind. I am talking about the soft, arching blades of ornamental grasses paired with the stiff, rough texture of evergreen needles. It's a simple, winning combination and low-maintenance, too. Let me introduce you to a couple of my favorite combos:
Wells' Weeper Spruce (Picea glauca) & Molinia 'Skyracer' (shown above)
These photos just don't do this duo justice. They really look smashing together. Wells' Weeper Spruce is a Black Spruce variety. It's graceful weeping habit makes a blue-green backdrop to showcase the wispy, see-through stems of 'Skyracer' Molinia. Monrovia describes 'Skyracer' best: "Abundant spikes of tiny purplish flowers rise well above the foliage clumps, giving a shimmering effect when back-lit by the sun. Golden hued fall foliage is enhanced by the tall plumes of coppery bronze seed heads." This grass is a well-behaved, must-have for the garden! Add color with Autumn Joy Sedum for a stunning fall display.
Wells' Weeper needs some room for it's mature height of 20'. 'Skyracer' visually balances it with it's flowering height of 6-8'.
A low-growing combination that I like to use is Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio' and Alpine Carpet Juniper (shown above). The fine texture of this fountain-like grass compliments the rough, course texture of this short-needled Juniper. Add an interesting boulder to complete the look. 'Adagio' grows 3-4' and Alpine Carpet covers the ground growing 8"x3'.
- Tracy Hankwitz
Horticulturist & BGC Store Manager
What words come to mind when you see peonies in bloom? Lovely, charming, romantic? Often these old-fashioned favorites stir up memories of days from our youth. Let us introduce you to a few new varieties that would make a welcome addition to any garden.
Let's begin with two stand-bys in our perennial house: Sarah Bernhardt and Festiva Maxima (shown above) -both herbacious varieties (Paeonia x lactiflora) with fully double blossoms. Sarah's fragrant pink blossoms have been gracing gardens and vases for 100+ years! She's a classic. The white blossoms of 'Festiva Maxima' are another fragrant peony enjoyed by several generations of gardeners.
For something a bit more unusual, try your hand at tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa). Like the name suggests, they have a woody stem, huge flowers, and can grow to 5 feet. Tree peonies are hardy in Wisconsin and a mature specimen can have up to 80 flowers. According to peony breeder, Roy Klehm, they can also do well in partial shade. We are offering "Lavender' Tree Peony this season (shown above). One look at the blossoms and you'll be charmed.
Now put the two together (herbacious and tree peonies) and you get an ITOH peony or intersectional hybrids. Named after the breeder Toichi Itoh, these peonies grow to 3 feet, require no staking, have disease-free foliage and up to 50 gorgeous blossoms on a single plant! Itoh peonies can be a bit pricey, but their luxurious blooms and spicy fragrance are well worth it. This year we have the following Itohs (shown above):
Bartzella - Very large, bright yellow double blossoms with a lemony scent.
Keiko (which means Adored) - dark lavender pink petals slowly fade to a soft pink, revealing a cluster of yellow stamens in its center. Like other Itoh peonies, 'Keiko' will die back to the ground after the fall frost.
Old Rose Dandy - a cross, with both P. lutea and P. suffoticosa, is a robust grower with glossy dark green foliage on a medium size, rounded bush (2 1/2 tall). Flowers are single form in a shade of copper apricot that lightens to a yellow beige as they age.
Peonies flower best in full sun and make wonderful cut flowers. They rarely need to be divided but if necessary, it's best to do it in the fall.
And what about those ants? Ants are attracted to the sweet nector produced by the peony buds. They won't harm the flowers! Once the flowers open, the ants are gone.
There are plenty of ways to garden in a small space: grow in containers, choose compact varieties, and grow up with trellises and obelisks. Let's not neglect the most obvious vertical space - walls! Below are a few options that we are offering at BGC this year:
Plant in a pocket (above left). Woolly Pockets are made of recycled materials, can be used indoors and outdoors. They are great for herbs, salad greens, strawberries, and annuals.
The framed succulents are planted in a self-contained watering system from Bright Green designed for indoor use as well as outdoors. Available in stained walnut or paintable frame.
The planter with colorful annuals is a Pamela Crawford Vertical Garden. Easy to mount and easy to plant. It works well with annuals and herbs.
This vertical garden from Gronomics is a true space saver. It's made from rot-resistant cedar and comes with a drip-irrigation system. We planted it with salad greens, herbs, pansies, and even tomatoes! The photo on the right was taken one month after planting. It's time to harvest!
All of the vertical garden systems are easily mounted on a wall. An old door would work well, too.
Big, bold, and lovely. Those words describe the clematis from the Raymond Evison Clematis collection. Add to that: long-blooming and partial shade lovers. Mr. Evison has spent more than 50 years breeding the world's best clematis and has introduced more than 100 cultivars. His most recent introductions have been compact and suitable for containers (pots with 18" diameter are a good size).
Following are a few that we are proud to carry this season:
'Alaina' has deep, creamy pink flowers, grows to 4 feet, and blooms in late spring and again in late summer. Flowers will last longer in a shady afternoon location.
'Cezanne' is a blue flowering variety that grows 3-4' tall and likes a partially shady spot.
Superb repeat flowering performance and lovely violet blossoms with red centers make 'Parisienne' a must have. Another compact one great for containers, it will bloom from early to late summer.
'Ice Blue' has dramatic large flowers May-June and again in late summer. Grows to 6' and is ideal for east, west, and north facing locations.
'Shimmer' rounds out our collection with it's 7" deep lilac-blue flowers. Plant this long-blooming perennial to grow on pergolas or trellis with roses. Grows 6-8 feet.
All of these clematis are easy to prune - just cut back to 12 inches in the spring. Plant them deep with annuals or perennials planted at their feet.
Why not start your own collection of Ray Evison Clematis this spring?
This spring we need to clue into nature's cues instead of our calendar of 'normal'. One of the easiest to remember has to do with the forsythia shown above. When the forsythia begins to drop is yellow flowers, the soil temperature is just right for dormant crabgrass seed to germinate. This is your cue to apply a crabgrass control product - one without fertilizer is best. Wait until the end of May to fertilize your lawn.
If you intend to reseed your lawn, do NOT apply a crabgrass preventer unless you are willing to wait until fall to sow.
Other cues from nature:
When the crabapple trees are blooming, put out your oriole feeders.
When the lilacs bloom, the hummingbirds will be here looking for their favorite feeding spots.
Seeding your lawn?
Here are tips from our friends at Heritage Seed Company:
Renovating- if your lawn is more than 50% weeds and dead grass, it is best to eliminate all living matter by using a non-selective herbicide such as KillzAll.
Overseeding- if your lawn is less than 50% dead grass and weeds and your existing lawn is thin:
1. Remove all excess debris and assess your lawn identifying spots that need reseeding.
2. If soil is compacted or has a half inch or more of thatch buildup, core aerate area to break up the thatch layer and to loosen the soil so the roots can better absorb moisture and nutrients. The cores should be 2-3 inches deep and 3 inches apart. Aerators are available at many hardware, garden centers and rental stores.
3. For overseeding, plant grass seed with a slit seeder 1/8 inch deep. Seed to soil contact is very important for success. Do not plant seed more than 1/4 inch deep.
4. When seeding bare spots, loosen soil to 1/2 inch with a rake, spread seed and gently rake seed into the soil. Cover with straw or pelletized mulch on sloped areas. The earlier in spring you reseed the area, the better jump you will get on weed growth.
5. New seeding of large areas, will have best results by planting your lawnseed at half the rate each in a north/south then an east/west direction. This will give you a uniform blanket of grass.
6. Apply a starter fertilizer at the rate of 3-4 lbs/1000 Sq. Ft.
7. Apply irrigation daily so the top ½ inch of soil stays moist until the area is mowed one time. Minimum of 4 weeks of daily irrigation to allow Kentucky Bluegrass to germinate. When the area is mowed once, irrigation should be applied less frequently at higher rates to get the root system to grow deeper.
8. Begin mowing once the first seedlings reach a height of 2 to 2 ½ inches to allow light to reach the slower germinating species. When overseeding, continue to mow the existing lawn at 2 to 2 ½ inches. After 6 weeks, raise mowing height to 2 ½ to 3 inches. Never mow more than 1/3 of the leaf blade in a mowing.
*Mower blades should be freshly sharpened every spring to prevent tearing and ripping out of the ground of new seedlings by dull mower blades.
9. Never apply crabgrass or broadleaf weed control products to newly seeded or reseeded areas until they have been mowed at least three times.
Mother's Day (May 11) is just around the corner and fortunately, so are these gorgeous hydrangeas with their lovely blue hues. It's Bloomstruck, the new hydrangea in the Endless Summer series.
Bred by Dr. Michael Dirr, this reblooming hydrangea macrophylla lives up to its promise of endless blooms. It blooms on old and new wood, grows 3-4' tall, 4-5' wide, and has great disease resistance.
Like other big leaf hydrangeas, it prefers a spot with afternoon shade. Bloomstruck's flowers can be pink, purple or blue, depending on the soil pH. To keep that fabulous blue color, add aluminum sulfate to the soil.
Other bud 'n bloom gifts for mom here at BGC:
'Sweet Fragrance' Easy Elegance Rose has the buds of a hybrid tea that open to a swirl of apricot petals and intoxicating fragrance.
'Paint the Town' Easy Elegance rose is everblooming with clusters of double-petaled blossoms. It's spreading and mounding habit make it suitable for landscapes as well as in containers.
'Sunny Knockout' Rose has bright yellow flowers that age to a pastel cream. It's the only Knockout rose that is fragrant. Blooms all summer and grows 3-4' tall, 3-4' wide.
photos courtesy of Bailey and Willoway Nurseries
Organic fingerling seed potatoes have just arrived! Grown without any chemicals to prohibit sprouting so many do have sprouts. According to the grower, if you break sprouts off, it will take longer for the vines to emerge and the number of vines will increase which results in a smaller sized potato. Who knew?!
More great growing tips:
* Leave at least two eyes on each seed potato.
* If cutting them, let them heal for a day before planting.
* Dust seed potatoes with sulfur to prevent fungus and diseases.
* Add humus or compost to the soil before planting which adds organic matter and nutrients.
* Potatoes grow best when soil pH is 5.2-6.8. They also respond to calcium, so adding gypsum to the planting hole is recommended.
* Potatoes can rot if the soil is too cold. The ideal soil temp for planting is 55-70 degrees.
* To plant, dig a trench 6-8" deep; space seed potatoes 12" apart; cover with 3-4" of soil.
* Hilling: when the plants are about 8" high, cover them about half way with soil or straw. Repeat in about 2 weeks and again in another 2 weeks. This loose medium is where the tubers will develop.
* Fertilize using fish emulsion as a foliar spray every two weeks until they flower.
* Harvest when the greens are brown or killed by a heavy frost. Waiting this long will result in bigger and better tasting potatoes.
'All Blue' is a fingerling that has deep blue skin and blue flesh - it really is all blue! It has a rich taste. Keep them blue by not over-cooking and add vinegar to the water.
Stop in and see all our varieties of fingerling potatoes.
Feeding Your Family is a blog by a Wisconsin family and features delicious recipes for fingerling potatoes.
Hellebores, also known as Lenten Roses, are one of the first perennials to bloom in the spring. They are deer resistant and drought tolerant and prefer a part-shade location. Hellebores, like the 'Ivory Prince' above, look lovely with several varieties planted together under a tree or at the edge of the woods. Other good companions include Lungwort (Pulmonaria), Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans), and hostas.
In addition to 'Ivory Prince', we are offering the following Hellebore varieties:
The blossoms of 'Mango Magic' are a unique qpricot color often having spotted petals.
'Red Racer' has dramatic 5-inch flowers that look good with Ghost fern, Sweet Woodruff, and Moneywort.
'Peppermint Ruffles' features 3-inch, double-petaled blossoms. It is a vigorous bloomer and has strong stems.
'Sunshine Ruffles' is a knockout with its double yellow, 3-inch blossoms that can last from March until June.
Hellebores may not bloom the first year in your garden. Be patient! They are long-blooming and long-lived perennials - a spring beauty well worth the investment.
All photos courtesy of Hoffienursery.com.
Just when you had fallen in love with 'Pretty Much Picasso' and 'Black Velvet' petunias, these new varieties in our greenhouses will charm and woo you into taking them home with you. No wonder - they come from a new series of vegetative petunias called 'Crazytunia'. Their mounding and slightly trailing habits do well in hanging baskets and mixed containers. They prefer full sun, a steady diet of fertilizer, and don't like to be too wet. Their vegetative nature means no deadheading and more blossoms. We know you'll be as crazy about them as we are.
'Twilight Red' & 'Knight Rider'
'Mandeville' (above) actually has a hint of yellow on the edges.
'Indian Summer' starts out yellow then evolves into all those lovely hues of orange and pink.
'Glamouflage Grape' Petunia is from the Hort Couture collection. It wows and dazzles with its unusual variegated foliage.
There's something new in the world of tomatoes - something big that we haven't seen since the 20's and 30's when tomato hybridizing began. Grafted tomatoes have roused the interest of many gardeners. The Europeans have been grafting tomatoes for decades, but it's relatively new to American gardeners.
What is a grafted tomato and what makes it better? It's two plants fused together to make one better plant. Many of our favorite heirloom varieties, like Brandywine, are not very disease resistant and fruit later in the season. By grafting Brandywine to the root stock of a hardier variety, they now are more disease resistant. This can be a huge benefit for those gardeners short on space and can't rotate their crops.
Grafted tomatoes also fruit earlier and longer into the season, and offer higher production rates (up to 50% more). Their extensive root system, makes the plants more drought tolerant but may not perform their best when grown in a container.
1. When planting, keep the graft above the soil level. This is the most important thing to remember. Typically we plant tomato seedlings deeply to encourage a strong root and support system. That's not necessary with grafted tomatoes. The roots of the root stock can spread to over 6 feet!
2. Actively prune it throughout the season. These plants are vigorous and grow quickly. Keeping it pruned will send more energy to fruit production.
3. Cage it or stake it to keep it off the ground. Don't let the bushy plants ramble all over the ground as the vines will root in and ruin the effectiveness of the root stock.
4. Remove any suckers that might form below the graft or roots that appear above the graft.
We are offering the following grafted varieties this season: Big Beef, Brandywine, Early Girl, Mortgage Lifter, San Marzano, and Sun Sugar Cherry.